The role of plastic in tea.
Plastic is a complicated and relevent topic in todays world and one that we're approaching head on.
Traditionally, (like many others in the industry), we have used an oil-based plastic to heat-seal our tea bags as it's sturdy and resilient but as we look to a more sustainable future, it's important that we continue to look for alternatives.
We have been working from our base in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to move to a PLA based approach which is a plant and bio-based plastic. Since August 2019 we have been running trials using the new material and now most of our tea bags are made using this alternative.
We believe that PLA is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable paper currently available, however we continue to monitor the market for other alternatives as they arise.
Your Questions Answered
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Why is there plastic in tea?
The tea industry uses heat-sealed tea bag paper which contains a small amount of plastic required to seal the bag together and keep the leaves inside. Approximately 1% of the total weight of a tea bag is plastic. Historically, this plastic sealant contains polypropylene and polyethylene, which are oil-based plastics.
What's the solution?
To use a more sustainable plant and bio-based plastic called Polylactic acid (PLA) to bind our tea bags.
Where are we now?
After years of trials, most of our tea bags are now made using PLA to bind the tea bags together. It's been a long process to ensure that the tea bags remain robust enough for a good cup of tea, but don't worry, the tea tastes just the same.
Does it affect the taste?
How will I know if my tea has the the new PLA seal?
All Ringtons 50-packs (apart from our organic tea bags) are now made with the new PLA material. We are working to convert the material on our organic tea bags however this process is more involved due to additional checks to ensure that we continue to meet the requirements of our organic certifier.
How do I dispose of these tea bags?
If you have a council food bin or organic waste collection, use these to dispose of used tea bags where they will be disposed of at an industrial composting facility. Unfortunately they can't be composted at home. You can however remove the tea leaves from the bag and add them to your home compost bin, and then dispose of the tea bag paper separately alongside your normal household waste.